Process Analysis Essay about Craft

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Intellectual properties are the creation of the human mind. These are the creations that require the intelligence and skill of the creators, hence needing proper protection from exploitation by third parties. The indigenous bell metal craft industry of Sarthebari, Assam is the second largest handicraft sector after bamboo craft. These are the unique creations of the artisans of the Sarthebari area who are referred to as ‘kahar’ or ‘ora’. The craftsmen prepare the objects manually adhering to the age-old technique by implementing the old tools. But over the last few years, the bell metal industry has been facing myriad problems. Apart from the scarcity of charcoal and broken bell metal products, which is the heart and soul of the crafts, the craftsmen were also deprived of their proper share and benefits. Where the commercial value and utility of the finished products are higher, some unscrupulous intermediaries get all the benefits, leaving a scanty amount in the hands of the artisans. Due to such unfortunate economic conditions for the craftsmen, they are facing stiff competition from machine-made products. The machine-made products have a better polish and are cheaper hence attracting more customers. The traditional artisans were facing the fear of duplication of their work. The customers most of the time fail to distinguish between the original and replica and often purchase those products which the retailers acquire from outside the state. This shackles the economy of the producing state. This paper will study the trend of exploitation of historic Assamese bell metal crafts in the Sarthebari area of Assam and the need for immediate action of the State government towards preservation by way of recognizing it as a Geographical Indication. This paper shall be a doctrinal study based on secondary sources analyzing the need for international intellectual property protection of the indigenous bell metal crafts and industry of Sarthebari.


Assam is also referred to as the land of the Red River and blue hills. Located in the Northeastern region of India, Assam is the hub of age-old traditional handicrafts and artifacts that are unique in their own nature. The mighty Brahmaputra River that flows through Assam also has a prime impact on the socio-economic scenario of Assamese people.

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The tradition of a region finds expression in the local arts and crafts. The handicrafts and artifacts of Assam are such unique creations that have got life through the magical touch of Assamese artisans. It is evident from the history of Assam that Assamese artisans and artists were known far and wide for their ethereal craftsmanship. From ancient times the fine and exquisite craftsmanship of a wide range of products has been internationally acclaimed many times. Assam is a state rich in art and craft skills. A large portion of the economy is dependent upon the artifacts and crafts of Assam. The traditional arts and crafts of Assam such as sericulture and weaving, bamboo and cane craft, brass and bell metal products, ivory, blacksmith, pottery, clay works, mask crafts, etc. have a universal reputation. It is evident from many historical records that during the glorious Ahom rule many of the cottage industry mainly handicrafts industries received patronage from the Ahom kings and complement the cultural and economic life of the Assamese people.

One of the sui generis of traditional craftsmanship of Assam is that the method and mode of production and the nature of the crafts have remained uninterrupted since the beginning. Therefore protecting the spirit of such exclusive and alluring creations and the creators is the keynote of Intellectual Property Law. Intellectual property is the creation of the human intellect. Legal protection for intellectual property is necessary so as to encourage every human endeavor which promotes economic, social, scientific, and cultural development of society and to reward the creators by affording legal protection to their intellectual creation. Intellectual property rights are legal rights governing the use of creations of the human mind. Intellectual property Rights is a branch of law that protects some of the finer manifestations of human achievement. Therefore Intellectual property protection by way of granting Geographical Indication is one of the most prominent ways of protecting such exquisite arts and crafts having cultural and traditional importance in a place. Geographical Indications identify certain goods as agricultural goods, natural goods, or manufactured goods as originating or manufactured in the territory of a country, region, or locality of a territory, where a given quality, characteristics, or reputation of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Although the use of geographical indication is more predominant in respect of agricultural products but may be granted to manufacture products too. Geographical Indications in other words represent a common heritage of the community of producers in a geographical region.

One of the most prominent International agreements for the protection of Intellectual property is the “Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights” popularly known as the TRIPs Agreement. It deals exclusively with provisions relating to geographical indication in Section 3 under Articles 22 to 24 of the Agreement. In India, the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999 has been enacted by the Parliament for the effective protection of geographical indications.

The indigenous bell-metal crafts of sarthebari, Assam

Sarthebari, a small town in the Barpeta district of Assam is the home of historic Assamese traditional bell metal crafts and industry. The bell metal industry of Sarthebari is the second largest handicraft sector next to the bamboo crafts and controls the colossal economy of Assam. Assam is an agricultural state, self-sufficiency is what the people of Assam are known for. Therefore handicraft is something that gives a way of self-reliant livelihood to the people of Assam.

Bell-metal is an alloy of copper and tin. The bell metal crafts are created from broken bell metal which is found in the raw state. The workmen traditionally known as the 'ka har' give shape to such broken bell metal into aesthetic utilitarian products that are an integral part of Assamese culture. The bell metal crafts of Sarthebari have survived for decade after decade yet remained uninterrupted and unchanged. The lahars of the region still prepare the products manually adhering to the age-old techniques and tools for burning and shaping the raw materials. Historically the bell metal crafts are found to be existed form the 7th century AD, from the time of Kumar Bhaskarverman, the king of the Verman Dynasty of Kamarupa when the king presented the items made from bell metal as a gesture of goodwill to the king of Kannauj, king Harshabardhan. Therefore it is evident that the bell metal crafts were not only popular among the common people but also among the royal families. But in the 19th century, the indigenous bell metal industry in Sarthebari took a leap forward with the initiative of a far-sighted gentleman named Pushparam Kohar, an artisan whose creation 'jati kahi' managed to acclaim universal recognition and displayed in the British Museum in London, United Kingdom.

The principal products made from bell metal can be categorized into a wide range of products including utility items such as 'bota', 'xorai'; utensils such as ‘kahi’, 'bati',' ban bati',' koloh', 'ghoti' etc.; items used for musical and religious purposes that include different types of taels (cymbals), ‘sofa' and many other decorative items.

Problems faced by the artisans

Bell metal craftsmanship has an integral cultural and traditional importance for the people of Assam. But due to various socio-economic conditions, the traditional artisans associated with bell metal craftsmanship are facing myriad problems for the last two decades. Earlier the bell metal industries of Sarthebari, Assam were patronized by rich traders known as Mahajans. But the workers were not given the due portion of profits and shares by the Mahajans. Despite their daunting labor, the principal amount of the profits were snatched by the Mahajans leaving a scanty amount in the hands of the actual laborers. In 1993, Kohiram Das, a master craftsman from Sarthebari initiated a co-operative society among the brass and bell metal craftsmen, named Assam Co-operative Bell- metal Utensils Manufacturing Society Ltd., as they were deprived of their basic rights of remuneration. They were not given proper shares and profits in proportion to their hard work. Therefore the Cooperative society started to work for the benefit of the craftsmen by way of providing available raw materials, credit facilities, etc.

Most importantly, bell metal craftsmanship demands hard physical labor and unique artistic skills. The craftsmen often feel that these crafts adorned with exquisite designs require love and patience as well as creative skills in order to give their aesthetic beauty. Therefore can not be made by machines. On the other hand, it requires a bulk amount of raw copper and tin to create the bell metal and also charcoal which is extensively used for burning and shaping the broken bell- metal and give the required shape. But for the last few decades, there has been a scarcity of raw materials charcoal, for which the traditional artisans are facing immeasurable hardship as it is their principal source of livelihood. Moreover, these industries are generally cottage industries within informal household setups. Hence restrict the maximum production as against well infrastructural setups. Yet another problem faced by the artisans is that the bell metal crafts require a maximum number of well-trained persons skilled in utensil making. But considering the recent trend, statistics show that there has been a grave decline of traditional artisans internationally urged by various social, economic, and geographical factors. Industrialization followed by urbanization is such a highlighting factor due to which people began to mobilize to urban areas for better opportunities and higher income abandoning their age-old indigenous craftsmanship. The prices of the raw materials are increasing at a faster rate making it impossible for the craftsmen to purchase the necessary amount of raw materials for making the products which gets only a scanty amount of profits. The involvement of some unscrupulous intermediaries also creates hardship to check and control the price of the products and raw materials and thus brings the artisans to the edge of losing the market.

The most prominent hardship faced by the indigenous bell metal craftsmen is that, with the advent of technology, a major portion of the artisans opt for advanced machinery. An artisan needs two to three working days to make a bati whereas he can make as many as such bowls in one day. As these products have far and wide utility and can be found almost in every household, a large number of industries from outside Assam have acquired the skills of traditional workers and have taken up the market shares. Traditional workers face stiff competition against such machine-made products. The machine-made products have better polish, available at a cheaper rate as it involves lesser hardship and hence attract more customers. The traditional artisans, therefore, face the fear of duplication of their works. As the common people can differentiate between original and machine-made replicas, the commercial value of handmade products is degrading day by day. As bell metal crafts of Sarthebari as a profession has been passed on from one generation to another, the new generation takes it only as an option because of unemployment hence not interested in learning the intricacies.


On the basis of the discussion of the study and in light of the observation the following recommendation can be drawn for Protecting and preserving the interests of the indigenous bell metal crafts as well as the rights of the craftsmen of Sarthebari of Barpeta district, Assam.

    1. Recognition as a Geographical Indication: by way of geographical indication, the traditional bell metal crafts of Sarthebari are required to grant geographical indication so as to protect the exclusive rights of the craftsmen through a universal Intellectual property protection regime. Only by recognizing it as a Geographical Indication the spirit of this age-old aesthetic craftsmanship could be preserved from further exploitation.
    2. Government initiative: the state government shall have to take the initiative to provide better facilities including credits and loans, supply of available raw materials, better marketing facilities, advanced training to craftsmen, and standard international rates to the crafts.
    3. Public awareness: the common people should be aware of the corrupt practices of the manufacturers from outside Assam in order to preserve this historic indigenous craft of Assam from further decline.
    4. Strong co-operative organization: strong Co-operatives and labor unions have a greater role to play in protecting the interests of the artisans of Sarthebari.


The traditional bell metal crafts of Assam are now universally acclaimed. But due to a lack of interest and initiative of the state government as well as many other social, economic, and geographical factors, the aesthetic spirit of the bell metal crafts has lost its due importance. Most importantly, the financial condition of the traditional artisans is disastrous. Immediate action is to be taken so as to relieve the spirit of the glorious craftsmanship of Assam. Moreover, duplication and exploitation of the original work are another hardship to traditional workers. Hence the only way to preserve the age-old bell metal crafts of Sarthebari is to recognize them as a Geographical Indication.


    1. Dr. B. L. Wadhera, Law Relating to Intellectual Property, LexisNexis, fifth end, 2011
    2. Dr. Samiya Tabasum, Intellectual Property Rights and Theories, University Book House Pvt. Ltd. Jaipur, first edn2018
    3. Dr. Ruli Mishra; Parvin sultana, Assam’s brass and bell metal industries not in sound health, date of publish 2015-09-15 available at’s-brass-and-bell-metal -industries-not-in-good-health.html
    4. S.N.Sharma, A Socio-Economic and Cultural History of Medieval Assam (1200 to 1800 AD) available at
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